The other night, I was tucking in my 6-year old Ellie for bed. As we were talking, she said, “Daddy, one of my favorite things to do in the whole world is to sleep.” I said, “Why is that, Ellie?” She said, “Because when you are asleep, nobody messes with you except for your dreams.”
Brilliant insight coming from a little girl who apparently feels as though her waking hours are characterized by the perpetual annoyances of her brothers. But at bedtime, according to Ellie, there’s nothing or no one with whom we have to interact or even battle – except for our dreams (and maybe that overactive bladder that gets us up every night at 1am and 4am).
Some dreams are nightmares. Some dreams are the closest thing to heaven we can experience here on earth. On some nights I dream I am being chased by a serial killer and wake up in a pool of sweat. On other nights I dream I can fly like a bird, only to wake up and be reminded that I’m still just a white guy who can’t jump.
Either way, we’re all dreamers. But the most important dreams in our lives aren’t those dreams we experience while we are asleep, but it’s the dreams that God has placed deep in our hearts. It’s the dreams that we ponder during the day: the lofty goals we long to accomplish; the places we wish we could go; the business we dream to start; the degree we would love to complete; the career we aspire to pursue; the lives we want to see changed.
Starting around 2006, I began to dream about someday completing a Ph.D. When I finished my M.Div. in 2008, the plan was to take off one semester from school and then go back to jump into the doctoral program. However, life started to happen. We started having babies. The church started to grow. The demands and busyness of life began to pile up. One semester became five semesters; five semesters became ten semesters, and the thought of pursuing my dream to go for the Ph.D. seemed altogether unattainable. It was nothing more than just that – a mere dream. How in the world could I add the often full-time job of doctoral studies on top off an already full plate?
In spite of the increasing unlikelihood of this dream becoming a reality, God would not allow the dream to go away. It gnawed at me day and night. I begin to see myself as an old man reflecting back on my life – looking back on missed opportunities and broken dreams. Finally, I could not live with the thought of someday – 30 years down the road – looking back on my life and living with the regret that I didn’t go for the Ph.D.
So I did it. It was a long 3½ years of little sleep, lots of reading and writing, and even more stress. But by God’s grace, the support of my wife and church, the prayers of many people, and my daily Shakeology, I graduated two weeks ago. No regrets, just a once far-away dream that became a reality.
What are you dreaming about? What dream keeps “messing” with you, to use my little Ellie’s words? Maybe you’ve had this dream from the time you were a child. Maybe it’s a newer dream.
Going to law school.
Moving overseas to spread the Gospel.
Starting your own company.
Learning to play the violin.
Adopting a child.
Starting a band.
Building your own home.
Joining the military.
Auditioning for the lead role in your favorite musical.
Starting a home for battered women or children.
Opening a restaurant.
Asking out on a date the Godly woman with whom you don’t think you have a chance.
Writing a book.
What is keeping you from pursuing your dream? Maybe it’s the fear of failure. Maybe it’s insecurity. Maybe it’s because you think people will tell you you’re crazy and talk about you behind your back.
Let’s be honest: some dreams were made to be broken. I dreamed of playing for the Boston Celtics from the time I was 3 years old, but it didn’t take too long to realize that was one dream that wasn’t coming true. I’m not suggesting that every single “dream” in our heart was necessarily put there by God. Sure, we all have mixed and often impure motives. We all can too easily allow ourselves to be driven by the flesh. I’m assuming all of that. Jesus died for all of these things.
But what if God isn’t the dream crusher that we sometimes envision Him to be? What if He really does long to give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4)? What if by His grace and His strength in us, we can accomplish incredible things in this life that otherwise seem impossible? God is not afraid of our dreams. He is the most creative Being in the universe, and we are made in His image! No dream you can fathom is too far-fetched or out of His creative and imaginative capacity. God gives us great dreams, to ultimately give Himself great glory.
Some dreams will come and go. For me, the dream of playing for the Celtics came and went, but the Ph.D. just wouldn’t go away. If you are seeking to glorify God in your life, and there’s a particular dream that won’t go away and continues to burn in your heart, go for it.
What do you have to lose? Some money? Maybe. Some time? Maybe. Some pride? Maybe. But in 30 years when you look back on your life, at least you will be able to say that you don’t have any regrets. You’ll never know if you don’t try.
God is not a cosmic killjoy. He can (and often desires) to make dreams come true – even yours. Don’t crush a dream that God may have given you.